Assistive technology conference round-up

All assistive technology conferences for 2020 and early 2021 have had to pivot to some sort of virtual format and creatively figure out ways to meet the needs of attendees, presenters, and exhibitors. Here’s a quick overview of upcoming conference plans for 4 major AT conferences in the U.S. — RESNA, Closing the Gap, ATIA, and CSUN.

Assistive technology conference roundup for 2020-21
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#BlackDisabledLivesMatter: solidarity and self-education

KPR stands in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and its goal of dismantling systemic racism, including police brutality, to create a more just and equitable society. In seeking to use our assistive technology company to promote justice, this post explores the intersection of race and disability.

Graphic showing a black fist and icons representing disabilities. Caption is Black Disabled Lives Matter.
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Assistive technology for Rett syndrome: a systematic review

Have you seen the 2019 systematic review covering assistive technology as an intervention for individuals with Rett syndrome? If not, read on for a summary of the research on assistive technology for Rett syndrome.

Assistive technology for Rett syndrome: a systematic review. Photo shows a young girl using a computer-based AAC system. An adult is alongside her, holding her hand.
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How to run KPR’s Compass software remotely

KPR’s Compass software for access assessment is designed for in-person use involving a computer user with disabilities and an assistive technology practitioner. But there are a couple of ways to use Compass during remote sessions, when being together is difficult or impossible. Read on for how.


In this post, we’ll present how an assistive technology (AT) practitioner can run Compass software remotely. AT teams use KPR’s Compass software to gather clear evidence for how well an individual can perform basic tech tasks like typing and pointing. For individuals with disabilities, Compass data can assess and document any difficulties using the standard keyboard and mouse interface, and it can help teams determine which alternative access interface provides the best performance for that individual.

During a typical Compass session, an assistive technology practitioner works side-by-side with an end user (a client or student with a disability that makes it difficult to use a computer). The practitioner chooses the Compass tasks that are most relevant to the user’s needs, and the user runs through those tasks while Compass takes data on the speed and accuracy of task performance.

With many schools and AT services closed due to Covid-19, this in-person scenario is currently not possible for most of us. Is it possible to run Compass remotely, with the practitioner in one location and the end user in another? And if so, what limitations are involved?

We’ll go over two ways that you could run a remote Compass session, and the limitations of each approach.

What you’ll need

For both methods, you’ll use a videoconferencing platform like Zoom to run a remote meeting. Whatever platform you choose, it needs to have screen-sharing and the ability to let one participant control another’s computer (Zoom calls this Remote Control). We’ll assume that you, the practitioner, are the host for the meeting. (Note: for the purposes of this post, ‘you’ refers to the assistive technology practitioner (ATP), and ‘user’ or ‘end user’ refers to the computer user with a disability.)

You’ll need:

  1. A Mac or Windows computer for running Compass for one end of the meeting
  2. Another computing device for the other end (Note: Mac or Windows will work. For iPad, see below for limitations. Chromebook: unknown.)
  3. Compass software
  4. Videoconferencing platform such as Zoom for the meeting host
  5. Internet access at each end

This post assumes that you are already familiar with using Compass in an in-person setting. But if you’re new to Compass, don’t worry — it’s easy to learn. Just request a free trial at kpronline.com, review the tutorial video, and try it out yourself before trying to run a remote session with it.

How to run Compass remotely

OK, so with those basics taken care of, the main difference between the two methods is which computer runs the Compass software. Your options are:
Method 1. Run Compass on your computer.
Method 2. Run Compass on the end user’s computer.

Let’s look at the details for each of these methods.

Method 1. Run Compass on your computer

With Method 1, you run the Compass software on your computer (Mac or Windows). Then you share your screen with the end user, so you are both looking at the same thing. When it is time for the end user to run a Compass test, you allow the end user to control your computer, using Zoom’s Remote Control or similar feature on other videoconferencing platforms. At the end of the test, the data are saved to the client’s file on your own computer, so there’s no need to transfer any data.

The complete steps for Zoom would look like this: Launch Compass. In the Zoom controls, choose Share Screen and share either your entire desktop (with the Compass window on it) or just the Compass window itself. Verify that the end user can now see the Compass screen. Open or create a Compass file for this user. Then choose the particular test you want to run first, and click Run Test. This gives you the start screen, where the user can practice or actually run the test. In the Zoom controls, choose Remote Control, then the user’s computer under Give Mouse/Keyboard Control to.

Zoom controls showing the Remote Control, Give Mouse/Keyboard Control option to allow remote user to control your computer

Particularly in a remote situation, I’d recommend a practice run. At this point, you can give the user some verbal instructions about the Compass task. Ask the user to click Practice when they’re ready, then they can complete the practice trials. When practice ends, the user can click Start to start the actual test.

Screenshot of a Compass Word test running within a Zoom meeting. Compass is running on the host's computer, and the remote user is typing the word remotely.
Compass Word test running within a Zoom meeting, on the host’s computer. The remote user is typing the word remotely.

This method of using Compass remotely is pretty straightforward, especially when the end user has a Windows or Mac computer. I haven’t been able to test what happens when the end user has a Chromebook.

If the end user has an iPad, this is the only remote Compass approach that works at all. However, it’s pretty limited, at least in my tests with Zoom Remote Control. You can run the Compass text entry tests, like Letter, Word, and Sentence, with the end user typing on the iPad. With the pointing tests, Zoom Remote Control is supposed to allow you to perform mouse actions by tapping the iPad screen; I found this was unreliable, however, so I don’t recommend it. You can also use the Compass Switch test with Zoom Remote Control, with the end user tapping anywhere on the screen to perform a switch hit. If you want more details about using an iPad remotely with Compass, please get in touch with me.

Pros of Method 1

  • Simpler setup (as compared to Method 2).
  • No need to install Compass software on end user’s computer.
  • Session data are stored directly on your computer.
  • End user can use an iPad (I’m not sure if this really counts as a “pro”, given the limitations, but at least it’s possible).

Cons to Method 1

The latency of the remote connection has an unknown effect on the results, particularly for speed. For example, the end user hits a letter key, and a delay occurs before the letter appears on their screen. If it’s a significant lag, it may affect the user’s approach to the task. For example, they may slow down to let the laggy display catch up to their actions. It’s unclear how much of this delay is also present in the data itself.

Due to the problems with latency, I would hesitate before making high-stakes decisions based on the data alone. Comparisons between tests are likely to be valid, assuming the lag effect is roughly the same in each test, but still, due to the uncertainty, interpret the speed results with caution.

Still, this method does allow you to work with the end user through some basic input tasks. And if your main interest is in working on task completion and measuring accuracy, then the data would still have some value.

If you can live with the latency limitation, I’d probably start with Method 1, since it’s the easiest method to try.

Method 2. Run Compass on the end user’s computer

In the Method 2 scenario, you install and run Compass on the end user’s computer (which must be Mac or Windows). To accomplish that, the end user first needs to share their screen with you (using Share Screen on the Zoom controls panel). Then, you can choose Zoom’s View Options > Request Remote Control to allow you to control the end user’s computer, and they need to Approve your request.

Zoom controls showing the View Options, Request Remote Control option to allow you to control the remote user's computer.

Once you’re able to control the end user’s computer, you can download a free trial of Compass for the end user’s computer at kpronline.com/install-demo. Follow the instructions there to install Compass. (Note: the free trial provides 30 days of use after installation. If you need more time, just contact me to extend the trial.)

Then launch Compass and either open an existing Compass file or create a new one for this user. Be sure to note the folder location of the file; you’ll need it at the end of the session when you want to get the data.

Next, set up the Compass tests to be run in the session, still using Zoom’s Remote Control to drive the end user’s computer. Choose the particular test you want to run first, and click Run Test. This gives you the start screen, where the user can practice or actually run the test.

At this point, the user can take over. Ask the user to click Practice when they’re ready, then do the task. When practice ends, the user can click Start to start the actual test.

When the test ends, you’ll still have Remote Control, so you can view the report, start another test, or whatever you want.

Once the session is complete, you’ll need to get the data from the end user’s computer to you, so you can review it. This could be done either with a file transfer in Zoom — the end user needs to open the Zoom Chat window, then click File. At that point, you can complete the file selection and the file will show up in your Zoom Chat for download. Or you could drop the file in a shared drive or box, or perhaps ask the end user to email it to you.

No matter what transfer method you choose, the trick is making sure you can find the Compass data file. It’s worth repeating what I mentioned above: Pay attention to the file’s folder at the beginning of your Compass session, so you’ll be able to retrieve it easily when the session is over.

(This assumes that your device, as the meeting host, is Mac or Windows. If you need to host with an iPad or Chromebook, let me know, and I’ll look into it.)

Pros of Method 2

A major pro is that the end user gets immediate response while doing the task, and the Compass speed data are completely accurate, because there’s no latency for the end user’s actions.

Cons to Method 2

  • Requires Compass to be installed on end user’s computer. The installation is not difficult, but might be challenging to do remotely in some situations.
  • Requires more Zoom-savvy on the part of the end user or someone in the user’s environment. They need to be able to do things like Share Screen, and Approve remote control requests.
  • Requires explicit transfer of the Compass data file at the end of the session.

Limitations for any remote Compass method

In addition to the limitations already mentioned, both methods share a few key limitations. First, you’ll have a hard time observing the user’s movements, unless you and the user are able to set up a separate camera to do that. Second, for sessions where you want to compare specific input devices, you’ll need to find a way to provide those to the user as well as to install and configure them. So you may be limited to practice and assessment with the user’s existing input devices only. And finally, the end user will need to make sure that their Zoom video panel is not covering up important parts of the Compass screen when they are doing a test. From the Zoom controls, they can use More > Hide Video Panel to do that. (I have not found a way that you can do this for them.)

At this point, it’s probably clear that it’s a bit clunky and cumbersome to run Compass remotely. And with Method 1, the data you get is likely to be less accurate than an in-person session. But if you are already in the mode of meeting with your student/client remotely, it’s not too much of a stretch to add some Compass data collection to your sessions. It does give you a way to add some structured access activities and assessment into your remote sessions. And particularly with Method 2, you can use Compass to demonstrate progress toward specific goals, even when you can’t meet in-person.

Even if you’re an experienced Compass user, I recommend trying out a remote session before actually running one with a client or student. If you run into any problems, just let me know.

I’m here to help

There’s a fair amount to learn here, and we’re asking people to take on a lot of new learning right now. And in stressful times, that’s a much tougher ask than it usually is. If you feel like your clients and students could benefit from using Compass in a remote session, I’m here to help. Let me know what you need, and I’ll do my best to help you find solutions that support the needs of everyone involved. Take care!

Remote access for all: some resources

To support efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19, here are some resources to help ensure the accessibility of remote teaching, learning, and working. When moving to remote formats, we want to meet the needs of all participants, including those with disabilities, as we tackle this huge challenge together.

Remote access for all: some resources. Cartoon image shows people communicating remotely using laptops, phones, and tablets.
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Accessible click and drag on the iPad

The latest iPad OS 13.3 allows you to perform an accessible drag with dwell selection using AssistiveTouch. And there are at least three other methods that might meet your needs for a more accessible drag. Here’s a step-by-step guide to go through each option and help you choose the one that’s best for you.

Accessible click and drag on the iPad. Image of an iPad with the words "accessible drag" drawn on the screen.

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In-person training improves assistive technology outcomes

In a recent research study, people who received in-person training from an occupational therapist had significantly better outcomes with their computer assistive technology, as compared to people who used a home-study program or those who received no training at all. Read on for a summary of this 2019 study from France.

In-person training improves assistive technology outcomes. Two images: one showing an occupational therapist and a person with a spinal cord injury working together. The other shows a close-up of a person typing using a typing splint.
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How to freehand draw using iOS Switch Control

iOS Switch Control allows you to freehand draw using a single switch on your iPad or iPhone. Here’s a step-by-step guide to get you started.

Photo of iPad, a yellow switch, and Tapio switch interface, with text saying How to freehand draw using iOS Switch Control
iOS Switch Control lets you control your iPad or iPhone using a single switch or multiple switches. So it can be a powerful accommodation allowing people with severe motor impairments to fully access any iOS device.

Switch Control is most often used for entering text and tapping on buttons and icons. But what about freehand drawing? There’s a lot less information out there on how to do that.

This post shows you how to get started with freehand drawing using iOS Switch Control. Read on for step-by-step instructions that show you how to draw a line of any length and in any location.

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